My Favorite Guitarists

Here are some of my favorite guitarists. Being fast is not something I care about… I’ve always liked guitarists who play with feel more than finger tapping.

 

Roger McGuinn, Byrds – He will not rip off lightning licks but he plays the Rickenbacker 12 string like no one else. I like the tone and his understated style.

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Neil Young – This may seem like an odd choice but when Neil plays the electric guitar…anything that can happen will. He plays by feel and feedback and God bless him for that.

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Brian May, Queen– You can hum his solos. One of the most melodic lead guitar players I’ve ever heard.

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Pete Townsend, Who – The king of the power chord. Pete does not have blinding speed but every note he plays is for a purpose.

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Keith Richards, Stones – The Human Riff… When Keith found G tuning the Stones sound changed forever and it may have been the key to their longevity.

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George Harrison, Beatles – After the Beatles, he reinvented himself into a great slide guitar player. Guitar players are still trying to find that tone. He had a great touch and taste in whatever he played.

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Buddy Guy – For electric blues and the tone he gets Buddy Guy is the man. Below is a picture of Buddy at the Festival Express playing a great version of Money.

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Jimi Hendrix – Like Keith Moon…many musicians have tried to copy him but none have. It is controlled chaos but I like it.

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Chuck Berry – Rock and roll owes a lot to him…he has been copied more than anyone.

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Scotty Moore, Elvis – The guitar player backing Elvis on his great 50s hits. Keith Richards said of Moore… Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty.

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Also

Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Peter Green, Lindsey Buckingham, BB King, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Page

 

 

 

 

 

Neil Young – Like a Hurricane

Like a Hurricane was on the American Stars ‘n Bars album in 1977. A single version was released that was edited down to under 4 minutes but it failed. The album version is the version that is known now.

Neil’s songs are so well written and detailed but they come out sounding so loose like he is improvising on the spot…cause most of the time while recording he is more interested in getting the right feel than anything technical. it works really well.

From Songfacts.

This song of intense desire has become one of Young’s classics, and one he almost always plays at his shows. Rock critic Dave Marsh described the song as “an eight-minute tour de force of electric guitar feedback and extended metaphor (Smokey Robinson meets Jimi Hendrix on Bob Dylan’s old block).” 

Young did write this tale of longing about a specific girl, but it wasn’t nearly as serious as it sounds – he had already broken up with actress Carrie Snodgress and had yet to meet his wife Pegi Morton. The woman in question was a girl he came across in a bar.

In Neil Young’s biography Shakey by Jimmy McDonough, it’s revealed that during the summer of 1975, Young was recovering from surgery on his vocal cords and couldn’t talk. This didn’t stop him from going out and having a good time with his friends, including his neighbor Taylor Phelps, who said: “Neil, Jim Russell, David Cline and I went to Venturi’s in La Honda. We were really f–ked up. Neil had this amazing intense attraction to this particular woman named Gail – it didn’t happen, he didn’t go home with her. We go back to the ranch and Neil started playing. Young was completely possessed, pacing around the room, hunched over a Stringman keyboard pounding out the song.”

Young took the song to his band Crazy Horse with just two lines written on an envelope: “You are like a hurricane, there’s calm in yer eye.” The band struggled with it for 10 days on Young’s ranch before a breakthrough. Crazy Horse guitarist Poncho Sampedro said: “We kept playing it two guitars, bass, drums, but it wasn’t in the pocket. Neil didn’t have enough room to solo. He didn’t like the rhythm I was playing on guitar. One day we were done recording and the Stringman was sitting there. I started diddling with it, just playing the chords simply, and Neil said, ‘Y’know, maybe that’s the way to do it – let’s try it.’ If you listen to the take on the record, there’s no beginning, no count-off, it just goes woom! They just turned on the machines when they heard us playing again, ’cause we were done for the day. Neil goes, ‘Yeah, I think that’s how it goes. Just like that.’ And that was the take. That’s the only time we ever played it that way.”

Referring to his vocal performance, Young explained: “It was a sketch. I went in and I sang both harmony parts, the low one and the high one – and that’s the way the record is. It’s all me singing.”

According to Young, there are similarities between this song and Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” Young explained in Shakey: “When ‘Runaway’ goes to ‘I’m a walkin’ in the rain,’ those are the same chords in the bridge of ‘Hurricane’ – ‘You are…’ It opens up. So it’s a minor descending thing that opens up – that’s what they have in common. It’s like ‘Runaway’ with the organ solo going on for 10 minutes.”

It took almost two years from Young coming up with the idea for this song to it appearing on an album. American Stars ‘N Bars was released in June 1977; an edited version of this song was released as a single that September and failed to chart. Like “Layla,” the edited version didn’t get much traction but the album version became a classic – that’s the version radio stations almost always play and is most widely available on compilation albums.

Young recorded a popular acoustic version for his 1993 MTV Unplugged appearance. His album from the show did very well, charting at #4 in the UK and #23 in the US, while helping introduce Young’s classic songs to the MTV generation.

Since Young couldn’t sing due to throat injuries at the time, he whistled his part in early takes. In an Uncut Magazine interview, he explained: “I wrote it when I couldn’t sing. I was on voice rest. It was nuts – I was whistling it. I wrote a lot of songs when I couldn’t talk.”

Young recalled in his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace that he penned this song’s lyrics “on a piece of newspaper in the back of (his friend) Taylor Phelps’s 1950 DeSoto Suburban, a huge car that we all used to go to bars in.”

He added: “As was our habit between bars, we had stopped at Skeggs Point Scenic lookout on Skyline Boulevard up on the mountain to do a few lines of coke; I wrote Hurricane right there in the back of that giant old car. Then when I got home, I played the chords on this old Univox Stringman mounted in an old ornate pump-organ body set up in the living room.”

“I played that damn thing through the night,” he concluded. “I finished the melody in five minutes, but I was so jacked I couldn’t stop playing.”

Like a Hurricane

Once I thought I saw you in a crowded hazy bar
Dancing on the light from star to star
Far across the moonbeam I know that’s who you are
I saw your brown eyes turning once to fire

You are like a hurricane
There’s calm in your eye
And I’m gettin’ blown away
To somewhere safer where the feeling stays
I want to love you but I’m getting blown away

I am just a dreamer, but you are just a dream
You could have been anyone to me
Before that moment you touched my lips
That perfect feeling when time just slips
Away between us on our foggy trip

You are like a hurricane
There’s calm in your eye
And I’m gettin’ blown away
To somewhere safer where the feeling stays
I want to love you but I’m getting blown away, blown away

You are just a dreamer, and I am just a dream
You could have been anyone to me
Before that moment you touched my lips
That perfect feeling when time just slips
Away between us on our foggy trip

You are like a hurricane
There’s calm in your eye
And I’m gettin’ blown away
To somewhere safer where the feeling stays
I want to love you but I’m getting blown awa

Waging Heavy Peace

An Autobiography by Neil Young. Neil is one of my favorite artists. He tells some history about Buffalo Springfield and CSNY and also the Mynah Birds with Rick James. Neil Young and Rick James in a band together…its just hard for me to imagine that.

He gets into how he started his music career with his first band and how he loves Crazy Horse.

Now all of these stories are great but… this is during the period he came up with PONO music… a high-end music player that plays music with much more quality than CDs or mp3s. This venture eventually failed years later but he is very excited about it in the book. That is great but sometimes it seems forced. I honestly don’t think he was plugging PONO…I think he was just that excited about it. His enthusiasm is unquestionable.

Cars…the man loves cars. I admire that in him but again he talks A LOT about electric cars and hybrids. Then he combines the two…PONO music systems being installed into…fuel efficient cars. I will admit it is interesting and you get to see what makes the man tick.

Some of it reads like a diary because that is the way he wrote a lot of it. He will say he is going to Hawaii and then a page or two later…he will tell you he made it there. It’s like being in conversation with someone who will just switch subjects on a whim. Neil tends to ramble.

He is part owner in Lionel Trains and you can feel his love of trains coming through the pages. He also talks about his quadriplegic son and the Lionel Train control he designed for his son to operate the trains. That I found really heart touching. He really tries to connect with his son and that is what the album Trans is all about.

He goes through his drug and drinking problems, medical problems, marriage problems, and every single car or bus he has had in his life…which again he just loves any kind of vehicle.

The disappointment for me was Neil didn’t talk enough about the music. Yes, you will learn more about Neil Young. I did learn many things about him that I didn’t know. The problem is he spreads the music sections out and just when he gets on a roll, you are thinking… cool he is writing about playing with Buffalo Springfield and also where they hung out…here comes the PONO Music bit or more car information.

I guess the best way to sum it up is yes you will get a lot of the musical info you are looking for but you have to wade through a lot of rambling.

Overall if you can find this book 2nd hand, get it. If you are looking for a definitive Neil Young bio this is not the one… He does have great things to say about the members of CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, and Crazy Horse. Maybe I wanted another Testimony or My Cross to Bear…this wasn’t it…but what did I expect? It’s Neil Young and he is going to do what he wants to do… that is the reason we love him.

I will admit this…after he mentions all the vintage cars and busses he has owned his enthusiasm rubs off…I started to look these models up and reading about them… but it wasn’t what I had in mind going into the book.

Neil Young and John Fogerty Lawsuits

In the eighties, two lawsuits popped up pertaining to these two artists.

Neil Young was basically sued for NOT sounding like himself by David Geffen and John Fogerty was sued for sounding too MUCH like himself by Saul Zaentz and Fantasy Records.

In the early eighties, David Geffen signed Neil Young to a huge contract to Geffen Records. Neil who will do his own thing no matter what or when…released an album called “Trans” his foray into electronic music. Geffen wanted another “Harvest” with another Heart of Gold or Old Man…instead he got “Computer Age” and “We R in Control” with Neil singing through a Vocoder. After that Neil was asked to do more rock and roll by a Geffen record company executive…the record company was thinking more of the lines of the harder rock Rust Never Sleeps…so Neil gave them rock and roll all right… “Everybody’s Rockin” an album full of early fifties Doo-wop and rockabilly sounding songs. The record company was not amused…he then released an album full of country music… In his contract, Neil had full artistic freedom.

Geffen had claimed the new albums were  “unrepresentative” of Neil’s music.

Geffen sued him for 3.3 million dollars but the case was settled and Geffen had to apologize to Neil.

In 1985 John Fogerty finally broke his silence with the album Centerfield. He had not released anything since 1975. He was involved with legal hassles and could not make music. Centerfield was a good album that signaled to the world John was back. He then was sued by Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz who signed the great Creedence Clearwater Revival to a terrible contract with Fantasy Records that kept John…the main songwriter and singer under contract forever. On top of that John gave up his copyrights to his CCR songs to Saul and Fantasy just to get out of that contract. The first single off of the Centerfield album “Old Man Down the Road” shot up the charts. Saul sued claiming it sounded too much like an old Creedence song that John wrote and sang called “Run Through the Jungle”. So he was being sued for plagiarizing himself. John would take his guitar to court to demonstrate how he wrote the two songs.

John won the case in 1988 and a lot of other musicians breathed a sigh of relief because other artists could have been sued for sounding like their younger selves if John would have lost. John countersued Fantasy Records for legal fees and it went to the Supreme Court in 1994…. they ruled in favor of Fogerty.

 

 

 

Remembering Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield is a band that gets lost in the shuffle at times. People know their big hit “For What It’s Worth” but little about the band. They were only active between 1966-68 but had a huge impact on other artists. The band was very talented……with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Bruce Palmer, Dewey Martin and Jim Messina who replaced Bruce Palmer. They had some great songs like Mr Soul, Now days Clancy Can’t Even Sing, Burned, Expecting to Fly, Bluebird, Rock and Roll Woman, Broken Arrow and their big hit For What It’s Worth…

I just read Neil Young’s book “Waging Heavy Peace” and he said that the end of Buffalo Springfield started because the bass player Bruce Palmer kept getting busted for drugs and taken away…more than once… By 1968 it was over and what a waste with the potential they had…The remaining members reunited in 2011 and played 6 concerts… in 2012 they were going to tour and do 30 concerts. Neil quit and did an album with Crazy Horse. He has a history of leaving projects when they don’t interest him anymore.

If this band would have stayed together originally… it’s little doubt they would have gotten much bigger than they did with the talented members they had in place.

The song Broken Arrow deserves its own blog. It’s a song that is in sections and it’s hard to explain it with words… There is something haunting and beautiful about it. I listen to it now and it’s like Buffalo Springfield’s own A Day In The Life. It was produced in 1967 during the psychedelic era. My friend and I played guitars together in the 80s and we would sit and try to figure out what the song meant… It doesn’t really matter…it’s a great song. One of my favorite songs of all time…any song with the lyric “He hung up his eyelids and ran down the hall” grabs my attention.

Right after the breakup, Stephen Stills helped formed Crosby, Stills, and Nash….short time later Young came aboard and would join them occasionally. Furay and Messina help form Poco and Messina teamed up with Kenny Loggins latter on.

They made three albums while together. Buffalo Springfield (1966), Buffalo Springfield Again (1967) and Last Time Around (1968). A greatest hits came out in 1969 called Retrospective The Best of Buffalo Springfield. A box set was released in 2001.